Dr. Rose Polge Wellbeing Award
Recognising Individuals and/or Institutions who actively support doctors' wellbeing
The mental health of our medical profession is failing - and is a worldwide epidemic. At least 1 in 4 doctors experience a mental health concern during their careers, and they are at increased risk of stress compared to the average worker
Thousands of doctors are leaving the profession every year - many of whom are suffering from mental health problems relating to significant stressors in the workplace. As victims of the doctor paradox, many of whom are unable to identify safe and non-judgemental spaces to receive help and/or many fail to identify that a problem even exists.
Wellbeing is at the core of what we do at Medic Footprints, as an essential component of the alternative careers journey. Most doctors who are seeking change will fail to do so successfully if they are experiencing significant (mental) health issues - and in reality, most in career turmoil are, without even realising it.
Last year, Dr. Rose Polge, a doctor based in Devon, took her own life amidst the junior doctors contract. Reasons for doing so were in part related to her career and experiences as a junior doctor, the political climate, and feeling otherwise trapped with no alternatives
Her feelings are not unique amongst doctors, however considering this led to such as tragic ending, we realise that we still have a lot more work to do.
We therefore continue our dedication to raising awareness about wellbeing issues affecting doctors and to champion services or individuals who have demonstrated active support for doctors in this area - as exemplars of best practice.
We received over 60 nominations in a 2 week period for this award
The winner with the most nominations was;
A group originally set up after Rose's passing to provide a confidential and supportive peer-to-peer forum for doctors with any health and work concerns, it has grown to over 4.5k in over a year and continues to grow exponentially - demonstrating a huge need for such a resource.
"The support this has given me and many other healthcare professionals is phenomenal. It makes me feel not alone, and gives me a safe space where I can read of others in a similar position to me and what has helped or post anonymously to gain specific support or guidance. I can’t thank them enough and would be lost without it. "
Led by Ali Blatcher, the award was announced by Iona Liddicoat, Rose's best friend, in the presence of Rose's family; and accepted by Phyllida Roe, Caroline Walker and Jason Wui Hang Cheung; all founding doctors of the Tea & Empathy forum.
Although Tea & Empathy won this award, we wish to give recognition to all the other nominees who are doing excellent work for doctors' wellbeing across the country.
"Terri has been and continues to be a huge support to countless anaesthetic trainees in the London deanery, particularly imperial School of Anaesthesia. Anaesthetic training involves very frequent rotations - 3-6 monthly often during registrar training - which is potentially disruptive and draining. In addition it is a specialty with a large proportion of on-calls, relatively large departments and notoriously tough fellowship exams. All of this can leave trainees feeling alone and despondently and Terri's door is always open to provide a sympathetic ear, advice on the training and signposting for additional support. Many many trainees would be in a much darker place were it not for her."
Dr. Geoff Watson & Team
"Ran a 2 hour session called 'The Culture of Care' at Welcome to Wessex Event for new specialty trainees. Within the session, people are divided into groups and asked to talk through scenarios presented to them; real experiences from other doctors of difficult/challenging/emotional situations work has presented them with. The Consultants encouraged discussion of how we cope with situations at work- who we can seek support from, talk to, and ways to ask for help. The open format of the group meant the discussion was led by those attending, rather than the consultants, and allowed for open and frank discussion on situations doctors have been in, and recognition that everyone in the group (from ST1s to registrars) had similar experiences and feelings.
Now in my third year as a doctor, this is the first formal session which encouraged and allowed discussion of the difficulties which can be encountered working as a doctor and in particular focussed on talking with peers (supported by the consultants) about how to practically deal with challenging situations/feeling overwhelmed/upset, rather than merely signposting to an email if support is wanted.
I thought this was a really good session to raise awareness and remind the junior doctors there that the challenges are experienced by everyone, but we're generally pretty rubbish as a group of admitting to it, for fear of seeming weak or being deemed a failure - I'm nominating Dr Watson and the other doctor who ran the session for this, to give recognition to the sessions they do, and in the hope it will encourage other Trusts and deanery to run similar and more regular sessions to help change our culture and support of doctors. "
"Jane was a senior nurse and now is a Deputy Director of Quality Improvement At Northampton General Hospital where Confessions of a Junior Doctor was filmed last year. She has no official educational role for junior doctors but started her work with them under the direction of the medical director some years ago. She works with medical students and junior doctors giving support and training with Quality improvement projects and makes it easy for them to make progress sorting out the little things and lending a listening ear She listens to junior doctors with problems in the workplace and finds people to help them when needed and facilitates meetings between them and the CEO She is always upbeat and realistic and believes in the privilege of medicine . Recently she has helped to introduce free breakfasts for juniors after night shifts and a designated junior doctor rest area for nights right in the centre of the hospital which is nearing completion . Many of our junior doctors are supported to present their work nationally and internationally thanks to her help and support and it helps them to feel valued in these very challenging times in the NHS "
"When I was considering leaving the Foundation Programme 4 months short of completion, I had to liaise with South Thames Foundation School and Christine was who I was put in touch with. She was incredibly kind and arranged for me to take a break from training instead. She was incredibly supportive and helped me find a way to carry on being a doctor when I thought quitting was the only option. I've since found my place in medicine as a radiology trainee - a job that I love and I'm so grateful to her for her help during that difficult time. She has done more for me than she can ever know and this seemed like a nice way of acknowledging that. "
Dr. Sarah Long
"Last year, Sarah was the MedSoc Welfare Rep on committee. She set up tea and cake sessions for people to come and chat to her if they were struggling. She organised sessions where the pastoral tutors would be available to talk to students in a more informal setting. She put her heart and soul into her role, making sure that students knew they had someone to talk to. This year she has been helping a friend who also suffers mental health problems, so is always on the other end of a phone when needed. She is the most selfless girl and is always asking if you’re okay, and is the perfect shoulder to cry on or person to sit and listen to your problems. It is not medical school related, but on a weekend she works to support a girl with cerebral palsy to give her company and normality by taking her out for activities. "
Dr. Manpreet Singh Gulati
"He has mentored , helped and supported so so many junior doctors that many have now become like family and call him 'AD' meaning 'Adopted Dad'. He has also been awarded by Lewisham trust for his support to junior doctors "
Elizabeth James & Care First
"I write this nomination, not as a doctor, but as a nurse who has received incredible help and support from Elizabeth through our Employee Assistance Programme, Care First. I know that my medical colleagues within this Trust also have access to emotional support and practical advice from Care First anytime that they need it - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I had my first appointment with Elizabeth within a week and I honestly don't know where I would be now if it hadn't been for her help. Elizabeth's knowledge, wisdom and experience was evident as soon as I met her, I liked her instantly and knew that I could trust her to help me work through my issues. Elizabeth's manner is open and friendly, therapy never felt hierarchical and we took a team approach to the work.
I have seen various counsellors/therapists in the past and I have never made as much progress in such a short space of time as I have with Elizabeth. I will forever be grateful to her and to Care First for carrying me through what has been a very difficult time. I believe that this is a hugely important service for all health care professionals and would like to ensure that everyone knows that there is free and confidential help available. You are never alone. "
Dr. Martin Laque
"I had an unbelievably tough couple of years. Martin was my boss. He tried really hard to support and help me to get out of training when i needed to urgently. He then tried to make sure I was aware of any Locum work as he knew I would struggle to pay my bills. He has remained involved with my career and wellbeing. Offering me exam support, references and other things. He always takes time to see how I am doing and politely makes sure I am handling things at home. The fact that he monitored and asked and cared probably kept me here, and saw me back to training when I was ready. I have seen him do the same for other colleagues, including one who had a new tough diagnosis and is now also back in training. A great boss like Martin who makes you feel like a team and that SOMEONE cares about you, doesn't just make you feel he cares about your career but that he cares that you are ok. And he saw me through the times I wasn't ok by going the extra mile. He does it time and time again for others. He was my boss until a few years ago, and I think he is still he greatest and most supportive and caring boss ever... but manages to always remain appropriate and respectful too. Honestly, one in a million. And I would love for him to be recognised because he really tries to make the system properly care for its trainees. Thank you Martin. "
Dr. Alice Keyte
"Alice was the mess president at Poole hospital last year. She was not only immensely kind and supportive to me when I was struggling at work, but she supported other junior doctors who were experiencing mental health in a frightening way. She set up a support system for F1 doctors to be mentored within 'families' in their new jobs. She has fought against many of the 'systems' within our hospital that have been unfair, and have resulted in juniors feeling overworked and unsupported. She was a very close friend to Rose Polge herself, and made all these changes whilst still in the aftermath of Rose's death whilst working through her own difficult foundation jobs. Never afraid to speak her mind, or fight for the right thing, the doctors in Poole would be in a worse place without Alice. "
Katie Thomas and Genevieve Ryan
"This team (planned care) at NHS Guildford and Waverley CCG, provided support to me during a difficult point in my career, listened and offered support, without judgement and were always available even when busy. But there are many many people who if I could, I would like to see receive some credit for offering support to those in need. My receptionist, my friend (a GP) and the patients who told me how appreciated I was, even when others did not. "
Dr. Phillipa Bowes
"This current GP Trainee was a foundation doctor in Cornwall from summer 2014. She recognised the potential pressures new doctors faced and made a plan to sort it out! Her Peer mentorship for Junior Doctors; The Buddy Scheme paired new doctors with existing, more experienced F2 'buddies' to provide support and a friendly face at induction and throughout F1.Her work has been presented locally, regionally and nationally. This year, the programme has been extended so that F1 doctors can buddy final year medical students, providing support and advice for students as they near the end of their training. "
Practitioner Health Programme (PHP)
"The service is specifically designed for doctors who have health (physical mental health and addiction problems) and has no doubt saved the lives and careers of many doctors in suffering. "
Dr. Ruth Machin
"Radiology training programme director who herself went through the system and regularly attends to the holistic needs of all staff, not just doctors, whilst working tirelessly to benefit patients "
Miss Stella Vig
"As a consultant surgeon in Croydon university Hospital, she not only was the lead for the foundation year doctors, but also showed willingness & interest in assisting all doctors in the hospital with any concerns. I had time management issues & was working round the clock & felt it still wasn't enough. I was a GP SHO, doing hospital attachments at the time & wasn't in Miss Vig's remit. I approached her as I had heard great things from other trainees about her mentor ship, & she gave me her time. Her support was timely & welcome. I'm now extremely happy as a GP Trainee & I'm managing both myself and my time better. She was a magnificent help. Thank you. "
Dr. Clare Fox
"She is an outstanding member of the medical community, who has been the most supportive, caring, devoted and endearing friend ever since we first met at medical school. Through thick and thin, at university and more so recently in work, at no time was a phone call too much, no matter what time of the day or night. Her constant support has been unwavering; I firmly believe I am lucky to have met her and have her in my life, and I solemnly doubt I would still be here today without this phenomenal woman. She not only deserves my thanks, but thanks from my husband, my family, my loved ones. I believe she deserves recognition for her continual support and care and I can't think of a more deserving individual; who prioritises wellbeing in medicine, and in life. "
Dr. Rob Bomont
"Dr Bomont fully supported me in moving areas as he knew this was in my best interests as I wasn't happy where I was and wanted to be nearer family. I didn't meet the criteria for a inter-deanery transfer but he went out of his way to help me find a way to do this, even though it would mean they had to recruit someone new to their deanery. He's an excellent mentor and always ready with a listening ear and lots of support for all the juniors he works with. "
Doctors Support Network (DSN)
"The Doctors’ Support Network (DSN) is the UK’s foremost peer to peer support group for doctors with mental health concerns. Established in 1996 it continues to help hundreds of doctors and increasingly medical students with support and advice. The DSN works with regulatory bodies such as the GMC, doctors health programmes such as the Practitioner Health Programme and delivers educational sessions at national and international events. I was fortunate to find DSN at a very challenging time when I felt very isolated. This sense of loneliness coupled with self stigma can be a big challenge for medics. Helping you realise and remember that you are not alone is what I feel makes the DSN great at what it provides. "
"AAGBI is a charitable organisation focusing on emotional support, mental well-being and physical care of anaesthetic trainees and consultants nationally and internationally. Working parties have led the way in raising awareness and providing guidance on sensitive topics such as fatigue, suicide, substance-misuse and patient-safety. As a result, many have turned to AAGBI for self-help and advice on how to support colleagues in difficulty especially through its innovative mentoring scheme. It has particularly been a staunch supporter of trainees by speaking up against issues affecting morale such as junior doctor contracts and rota gaps. AAGBI is an organisation steeped in history and with welfare at the centre of its ethos, it is seen as the "professional family and home” to many. "
Dr. Nancy Redfern
"Nancy is a consultant anaesthetist, who has focused on well-being and welfare of trainees and consultant colleagues. She has been instrumental in introducing mentoring within anaesthesia and has motivated other specialties to follow suit. Her involvement in the fatigue working group has raised awareness of the dangers of fatigue and burn-out and ensured safer working conditions. Other achievements include strengthening the anaesthetic less-than-full-time network nationally as well as highlighting concerns faced by older clinicians through her role on the “Age and the Anaesthetist” working party. Nancy is the epitome of what a caring person and clinician should aspire to. She has dedicated years advocating for and supporting doctors in difficulty and training others to do the same. A true inspiration. "
Dr. Evie Kemp
"Dr Evie Kemp is an exceptional clinician who has helped me return to work after two separate periods of prolonged serious illness. She sets the bar for how Occupational Health Medicine should be practised - considering the patient truly holistically. Her support, judgement and guidance has been key in enabling survival of my career, my well being and that of my family. She is truly an exceptional doctor who runs an exceptional Occ Health Service and I feel hugely privileged and humbled to have had her support. I am certain that I owe my wellbeing and that of my family's to her. "
by her friends Iona and Beth
Rose was the light and soul of every moment: hilarious, enthusiastic and adventurous. After Rose went missing, everyone was so shocked at how such an incredible, beautiful, well-loved lady could have got into such crisis.
Rose truly embraced life and was passionate about all that she did, which bought excitement and joy to the lives of all those that were fortunate enough to have spent time with her. Rose cared so much about things in life and tried her very best to really live in every moment. She made fun plans for many weekends in advance with her numerous friends around the country: it was so important to Rose that everyone was having a good time at social events and she made it her role to bring fun and sparkle into everyone’s world.
But even more than she cared about making the most of every opportunity, Rose really truly cared about those around her- taking on their burdens as her own.
Rose cared about the quiet medic that always sat on their own in the lecture theatre; she noticed when they hadn't been around in a while. When a couple broke up you would almost think Rose had been in the relationship herself, with the weight of sadness that she carried! Because of Rose's deep care for people it meant that she noticed things and understood things about people in a way that others may have overlooked.
Not wanting to let others down, and carrying on with an adventure-filled life, Rose concealed her inner battle and others did not recognise the severity of her crisis.
This award is so important for all of us. In Medicine points equal prizes. And many earn their prizes by spending time working towards their training, submitting abstracts, staying late at work, working on audits, and doing anything to get their foot on the ladder.
But for us who have lost someone so special in the midst of a pressurised hospital environment, we believe that we need to be giving prizes to people who support medics, to ensure that the people like Rose who pour their heart and soul into their work, can keep their feet firmly on the ground.